Sharon Birks, PhD

Sharon Birks

Sharon Birks

Genetic Resources Manager 


  • PhD, Animal Behavior, Cornell University
  • BS, Zoology, University of Washington

About Sharon

Research Interests
The evolution of birds, with an emphasis on reproductive behavior, mating systems, and the use of molecular techniques, especially within the avian family Megapodiidae (the megapodes).


  • Genetic Resources Manager, Zoology Division, Burke Museum, University of Washington, 1998 - present
  • Alfred P. Sloan Postdoctoral Fellow in Molecular Evolution, Department of Zoology, University of Washington; Scott V. EdwardsÍ lab, (evolution of megapode birds using a nuclear and mitochondrial DNA phylogeny), 1996-1998
  • Graduate Student, Section of Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University; advisors: S. T. Emlen and P. W. Sherman, C. Aquadro supervised molecular lab work. DNA fingerprinting techniques used to study reproductive behavior in a megapode bird, 1987-1996.

Field Experience

  • Burke Museum Collecting Trips, 2003-present: multiple trips to observe and collect birds and mammals in Washington, Oregon, California and Nevada.
  • Burke Museum Collecting Expedition to Panama: March 2002. Surveyed and collected birds from remote forest locations along the Chagres and Esperanza Rivers.
  • Burke Museum Collecting Expedition to Primor'ye, Russia: May-June 2002. Surveyed and collected birds in cooperation with scientists from the Moscow State University Museum.
  • Ambrym and Efaté Islands, Vanuatu, South Pacific: surveyed nests and collected tissue and blood samples from endemic megapode bird, November 1996
  • Tamborine Mountain, Southeast Queensland, Australia: studied paternity and reproductive behavior of Australian Brush-turkeys, June-December, 1989 – 1992
  • Potholes National Wildlife Refuge, Washington: studied Red-winged Blackbird reproductive behavior, took blood samples for hormonal assays, March - June, 1985 and 1987
  • La Selva Biological Research Station, Costa Rica: studied leaf-cutting ant ecology, January 1987

Research Awards, Grants + Fellowships

  • 1998 National Science Foundation Grant for Collection Improvement for Genetic Resources at the Burke Museum
  • 1995 National Science Foundation and Alfred P. Sloan Postdoctoral Fellowship in Molecular Evolution
  • 1993 American Association of University Women Fellowship
  • 1990 American Ornithologists Union Research Award
  • 1990 American Museum of Natural History Frank M. Chapman Award
  • 1989 Sigma Xi Grants in Aid of Research (local and national branches)
  • 1989 National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship
  • 1989 NIMH Integrative Training Grant
  • 1989 Explorer's Club Exploration Fund Grant



Harris, R. B., S. M. Birks, and A. D. Leaché. 2014. Incubator birds: biogeographical origins and evolution of underground nesting in megapodes (Galliformes: Megapodiidae). Journal of Biogeography 41:2045-2056.

Kerr, K., S. Birks, M. Kalyakin, Y. Red'kin, E. Koblik, and P. Hebert. 2009. Filling the gap - COI barcode resolution in eastern Palearctic birds. Frontiers in Zoology, 6:13.

Edwards, S. V., S. Birks, R. T. Brumfield, and R. Hanner. 2005. Future of avian genetic resources collections: archives of evolutionary and environmental history. The Auk, 122:979-984.

Birks, S. M., and S. V. Edwards. 2002. A phylogeny of the megapodes (Aves: Megapodidae) based on nuclear and mitochondrial DNA sequences. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 23:408-421.

Birks, S. M. 1999. Unusual timing of copulations in the Australian Brush-turkey, Alectura lathami. The Auk 116(1):169-177.

Birks, S. M. 1997. Paternity in the Australian Brush-turkey, Alectura lathami, a megapode bird with uniparental male care. Behavioral Ecology 8(5): 560-568.

Birks, S. M. 1996. Reproductive Behavior and Paternity in the Australian Brush-turkey, Alectura lathami. Ph.D. thesis, Cornell University, Ithaca.

Jones, D. and Birks, S. 1992. Megapodes: Recent ideas on origins, adaptations and reproduction. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 7(3): 88-91.

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